I’ve finalised my flight, booked my bed in a hostel, and practiced my per favore and grazie and needless to say I am getting rather excited about this residency. With a couple of weeks left before I start my journey, it’s all about preparing to make the most of this. It’s as much about packing the right things, passport, e111, toothbrush, as it is about understanding what interests me about Tuscany.
As much as I can imagine being caught in a dizzy whirlwind of hyperkulturemia, inspiring an intense experience of prolific art making, I know it could also lead to a lot of confusion (and rapid heartbeat, panic attacks, falling to the floor, and even hallucinations according to Italian psychiatrist Magherini). While passing out of the floor of the Uffizi is not a major concern of mine, getting a bit lost and overwhelmed is. I need a guidebook, but I’m not usually one for following a Lonely Planet Guide, I want a book that’s a little more inspiring, artistically.
In my final year at GSA I became increasingly interested in the idea of ‘witches’ as a scapegoat for fears about female sexuality. I also wanted to explore the traditional rituals that the church condemned, the heady folklore tales of sex, drugs, metamorphosis and death. However when it comes to researching witchcraft and ritual in Florence, one journalist has beaten me to it, by 100 years or so: Charles Godfrey Leland. His influential book Aradia documents Tuscan folklore, rituals and the legends of Florence that he collected from the locals during his stay in the 1890s. Leland’s writing could offer me doorway to this substratum of Tuscan life, and be my own strange little guidebook. Unfortunately my local bookshop didn’t have a copy, but thanks to Amazon one is on it’s way to me now.
Thinking about local traditions and folklore got me inspired yesterday, and I did a little ritual myself. In a performance preliminarily titled PARISH WITCH, I gathered, wore and then returned wheat, mud, bone and grasses to the earth. The piece was certainly more about the ritual of selecting and gathering the local flora to wear and the application of the natural detritus to my body- fingers as paintbrushes, thick globs of clayey mud as glue, than it was about creating any lasting image. Still this is the first time I’ve created, digitised, and published something the next day. The immediacy of the process is new to me; the idea of showing something without time to reflect is mildly unsettling. But I’ll have to put my worries about cringing over naïve work aside, because, and I hope you agree, this blog will be a lot more interesting as a raw unedited adventure in art making.
And how does my skin and hair feel after being coated with all that plants and mud? actually pretty good! I might make this ritual a regular thing…